Visibility and transparency – how business intelligence and data visualisation software can build resilience for manufacturers

UK manufacturers have suffered from a series of economic shocks in recent times, which have severely impacted on their supply chains, productivity levels and financial viability.

The Coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine have caused intense pressure on supply chains and energy costs have skyrocketed.

It’s a challenging landscape.

According to Operating without Borders – Building Global Resilient Supply Chains, a May 2022 report from Infor and the manufacturers’ organisation, Make UK, 47% of manufacturers said that the Coronavirus pandemic had caused catastrophic or major disruption to their supply chains.

Raw materials are harder to source.

Logistics are less reliable.

And supply chains have been further disrupted by the Ukraine conflict.

For Verity Davidge, Director of Policy, Make UK, disruption and volatility for global trade are “fast becoming normal”.

Rising energy bills are compounding problems for manufacturers.

A Make UK report in September 2022 stated that for 42% of manufacturers, electricity bills had increased by 100% in the past 12 months.

Of great concern is that according to that survey, 12% of manufacturers have already made job cuts as a result of increased energy bills, and those companies admit that full shutdowns and wider redundancies will be needed if price increases of more than 50% occur in the next 12 months.

However, by adopting digital technologies, manufacturers can build greater resilience into their businesses. This can be through increasing productivity, boosting efficiency, gaining a real time view of performance, and having the ability to make accurate forecasts – to identify problems before they occur and take decisive action.

Indeed, Make UK’s 2022 report, Digital Adoption: The Missing Link In Productivity And Growth, revealed that 67% of manufacturers surveyed stated that their investment in digital technologies has paid off and they were “better prepared to weather the storm”.

Digital technologies in manufacturing – what difference can they make?

To build resilience into their businesses, manufacturers need to know about production issues or supply chain failures before they affect their customers. Management teams need to quickly understand data and make rapid decisions based on its accuracy. And they need to ensure their manufacturing operations are being run as efficiently as possible to help them save on energy costs and maximise productivity.

Yet some manufacturers rely on data from disparate sources: think of multiple Excel spreadsheets stored on different servers, and siloed business functions using their own data sources, with no overall ‘company’ view available. In such cases, it’s very difficult to gain a clear picture of where a business is… and where it could be going.

By using software solutions such as Qlik, Alteryx and Microsoft Power BI, manufacturers can overcome these challenges and increase their resilience when faced with economic shocks.

Data management solutions help manufacturers organise their data into one source of ‘truth’ – a source that they can rely on when making crucial decisions, while data preparation solutions can support manufacturing businesses in blending and organising disparate data from across their organisations.

Data visualisation software brings data ‘to life’ via dashboards that are easy to use and understand. It helps manufacturers to make sense of complex information such as customer demand, production levels and supply chain data – and make quicker decisions as a result. In a rapidly changing landscape where agility is a key, this can be invaluable.

Foresight is also vital building resilience – which is where Predictive Analytics solutions can make a real difference. If factors such as machine failures, raw material shortages, logistics problems and demand can be more accurately forecasted, manufacturers can take preventative action and minimise the risks of plant shutdowns, drops in productivity and delays to customer orders.

Finally, manufacturers can draw on the power of Geospatial Analytics solutions. These will visually map out their production and logistics facilities and identify potential efficiencies, which can help their businesses save on resources, speed up processes and reduce energy costs.

Many UK manufacturers are now using dashboards and analytics to monitor their global supply chains.

The Operating without Borders – Building Global Resilient Supply Chains report found that more than 50% of manufacturers used dashboards and analytics in this way.

And in a recent LinkedIn poll conducted by Cybit, 73 per cent of the 244 respondents stated ‘yes’ when asked ‘Is the future of manufacturing powered by data & analytics or something else?’ – a demonstration of how the importance of this technology for manufacturing is now perceived.

Here’s just one example of how a manufacturer is embracing data analytics and data visualisation tools…

Formica – using Cybit’s expertise and digital technology to transform decision making

Established in the US in 1912, Formica is the world’s largest supplier of high pressure laminate.

The company needed a partner to help it:

  • Automate the process of manually generating new products
  • Easily and accurately answer questions about supply chain issues and the performance of global and local manufacturing sites and warehouses
  • Improve supply chain processes to reduce wastage and optimise stock
  • Increase sales
  • Discover ways of procuring stock and delivering products to customers around the world more efficiently.

Cybit’s solution used data blending tool Alteryx and outputted results into data visualisation tool, Qlik Sense.

And it was a great success, according to the CIO of Formica Group at the time.  “We’ve found these tools have absolutely transformed how quickly we can get to the answers we need,” they said. “I’ve been in IT for twenty-odd years and things like this are genuinely exciting. I didn’t know this stuff was possible.”

The results have included:

  • Deeper insights to improve sales and marketing activities
  • Reducing waste and optimising inventory levels
  • Gaining a better understanding of customers
  • Ease of cleansing supply chain data
  • Enablement of quicker decision making

You can find out more about our work with Formica here.

 Want to know more about how Cybit can support your manufacturing business with data visualisation software and data insights tools? Interested in how we can help you build resilience into your business? Contact us here.



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